TOP 5 things to look for in a playground!
Having fun in the playground while supporting child development
This summer my kids and I have been exploring different playgrounds around Cambridge. There are many things that make a playground great, both for fun and for child development. Water play, sand pit, ropes are some of them, but here are our 5 favourite things:
1. Nature: whether the playground is in the countryside or in a large city, elements from nature are key for developing healthy movement during outdoor playtime. Look for hills and trees.
- Hills: The urge to climb to the top of a hill is irresistible to children (and adults alike!). There’s the excitement to see what’s on the other side, as well as that incredible moment when you reach the top and it feels like you’re on top of the world! Their imaginations are instantly engaged, and in an instant they’re summiting a mountain that no human being has conquered before! It’s great fun at the same time as developing their balance, intuition and crossing the midline.
Trees are nature’s monkey bars (my kids favourite!) They are not only good fun but are also great for preparing little hands for a proper pencil grip. Supervised tree climbing builds physical strength, self-confidence and sense of achievement.
2. Balance trail: a simple beam, followed by different heights of raised stepping logs, climbing frames, etc. put one after another to create a balance trail. This is always a big favourite that provide kids with new challenges and can be the source for hours of movement activities.
3. Swings: Swinging is an all-time favourite. It is calming and it makes children feel like they are flying! The rocking motion of swinging stimulates the cerebral cortex, the part of the brain that helps with focus. Swinging might seem a simple movement but it is actually quite complex. Swinging independently requires children to shift their weight in order to propel themselves, which requires good balance, coordination and control. The pendulum like movement also reinforces children’s internal sense of rhythm, spatial awareness and timing.
4. Sea-Saw: is the perfect equipment for the development of social relationships. Two people are required to find the right “balance” and make a great ride for both of them. It is team work!
5. Slides: For babies, sliding up and down on their bums, tummies or backs provides them with an amazing amount of sensory stimulation. It helps developing body awareness, visual skills, balance, coordination and muscle tone. For the older children, sliding down on their own can feel very fast and experience the thrill of being out of control. It teaches them that some things in life are out of our control. It helps children developing courage and confidence and a positive outlook that will see them through challenges and obstacles later on in life. Learning to let go is part of learning how to get and stay in control.
What are your favourite activities to do in the playground for fun and for child development?